By George Dutch
Let’s not overlook the obvious when analyzing the stories of our clients. I am always amazed by the depth of information available through stories that, on face value, are often presented as simple or trivial activities enjoyed by our clients. For example, sometimes a client will mention how much they enjoy driving on a car trip. This simple activity might reveal a knack for operating machinery or equipment, or coordinating gears and pedals. Perhaps, they enjoy driving other vehicles, such as boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, forklifts, trucks, even airplanes. A knack for operating equipment or coordinating gears correlates with core job duties in many occupations. If they enjoy driving very fast, does that mean they are a ‘speed freak’ who loves to live dangerously? Perhaps, but it may also indicate a talent for making a fast, responsible decision, the same talent that correlates with certain requirements related to being decisive with a physical response as in paramedic, athletic, referee, military, and other applications.
In other cases, what the client claims to enjoy is the opportunity to observe the city scapes and landscapes they pass through on their car trip. They notice small things that others often miss, such as billboards, crops in fields, new flashing on homes in neighborhoods, or stickers on long haul transports. Police forces teach their recruits techniques of observation, but some individuals have a natural observing talent that correlates with core job duties involving investigations, or inspections, or monitoring. Just because a client has one kind of observing talent, it doesn’t mean they have more. For example, the talent for observing details in your physical environment isn’t the same as a talent for observing details in legal documents, technical manuals, and so forth. Some individuals are natural proofreaders, who can acquire a manuscript-editing ability, or paralegal skills. Others cannot stop their eyes from noticing details in blueprints or maps, and can acquire skills related to architects or general contractors, or military strategists or cartographer. If you question them further, you might learn that your client has a natural observing talent for seeing a 3-dimensional object or building from a 2-dimensional drawing. Reading mechanical drawings, or aerial photographs, comes easily to them because of this spatial perception talent, which is a core job duty for a mechanical engineer who needs to see a completed turbine from a drawing, or a fashion designer who can look at a pattern and see the finished dress.
Gathering and interpreting this data as career professionals is how we can add value to the lives of our clients. However, we need to exercise discretion and wisdom when advising clients on career matches. We can mine our client’s stories for clues to their right work but we must be careful not to extrapolate an entire career from one or two obvious talents. What matters in determining a client’s right work is their motivational pattern as a whole, not their individual variables. A client may have a natural talent for observing details in their physical environment but we should not leap to the conclusion that policing is an obvious career choice. It is enough to point out that their talent correlates with a core job duty of police officers to demonstrate the value such a talent has in the world of work. Other factors come into play when determining whether or not your client is suitable for police work. More information about their ambitions, personality, values, priorities, health condition, education, strengths, thoughts and feelings need to be taken into account for career decision-making.
Engaging your clients with what they do easily—telling their stories!--moves away from narrow assessments and towards a more holistic methodology that employs narrative counseling to help clients translate their natural talents and motivations into specific jobs or careers.